The Science of Analysis Paralysis: How Overthinking Kills Your Productivity
Our working memory is what allows us to focus on the information we need to get things done at the moment we’re doing them. It is also in limited supply. You can think of it like our brain’s computer memory. Once it’s used up, nothing more can fit in.
When you overanalyze a situation, the repetitive thoughts, anxiety, and self-doubt decrease the amount of working memory you have available to complete challenging tasks, causing your productivity to plummet.
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You can think of willpower as a muscle. The more you use it, the more it wears out, leaving you feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.
When we agonize over a decision, we deplete our limited supply of willpower much more quickly, causing us to feel exhausted and overwhelmed.
Because our ability to make quality, long-term decisions deteriorates with each additional choice we make, big or small, successful people tackle their most important task first thing in the morning when their willpower reserves are at their fullest and try to make small decisions as automatic as possible.
Efficiently manage information by determining what you want to learn from it first, then reading for that specific thing.
Another way to consume information is to determine the number of resources you’ll use first. Limit yourself to only those resources.
Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the amount of time you’ve allotted it. Setting a time constraint can force you to make a decision more efficiently.
Find a way to hold yourself accountable for your deadlines. Make your deadline as public as possible.
Identifying and staying true to one main objective as the basis for decision-making helps you overcome a tendency to overthink.
What’s the most important thing for you personally and professionally? Write it down and find a way to remind yourself to review it regularly.
The next time you catch yourself thinking over a particular issue, again and again, schedule a meeting with a coworker, supervisor, mentor, or friend. Having to present your deliberations to someone else forces you to synthesize the information you’ve been collecting in a clear, concise way.
This concept is most associated with software development, particularly at fast-moving start-ups with few resources:
To break the gridlock of analysis paralysis, we can view each decision as an experiment to be tested. It gives us the freedom to choose something quickly because we know we can improve upon it later.
Collecting and analyzing more and more information is a tempting way to try and overcome the uncertainty that comes with taking on big goals. In the end, action is what decides our ultimate success or failure.
So the next time you’re stuck in analysis mode, remember that successful people start before they feel ready and figure the rest out on the way.
It’s tempting to believe that the best decision exists and we can figure out what it is by just researching deeper and thinking harder. The truth is that the options in front of you may be equally valid.
It’s often our confidence in and commitment to our decisions that determine whether they are the “right” ones in the end.
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